Coaches Q&A Part IV: Staff Dynamics

The fourth part of our question and answer session with coaches Wojo and Collins touches on the make up of the staff and the various responsibilities.

With all three assistants being former Duke players, how much dissension is there when it comes to decision making? Does Coach K encourage or endorse opinions and strategies on the court or in recruiting that are contrary to his own?

There are many times throughout a season where good discussions are necessary and productive for our staff. Exploring different views and opinions and discussing them as a staff can often spark some of our best ideas. We always toss around various ways to prepare for each of our games and opponents. We then come together on common ground before presenting it to the team. We believe there is not a staff in the country that is closer than we are.

We have heard that Wojo coaches the big men. Do Coach Dawkins and coach Collins have specific positional coaching duties?

Coach Wojo is primarily responsible for overseeing the development of the post players, whereas Coach Collins works with our perimeter players. Coach Dawkins works with both post and perimeter players during practice and individual work sessions, and also plays a key role in player development on and off the court.

We all work together in all aspects of what we do as coaches in practices and in games to best help our players improve in every area. We all arrived at Duke close to the same time, with Coach Dawkins coming on board prior to the 1999 season, Coach Wojo joining the staff in 2000 and Coach Collins following him in 2001. In the nine years Coach Dawkins has been on our coaching staff, our players have earned six National Player of the Year awards, five National Defensive Player of the Year awards, 16 All-America selections, five ACC Player of the Year honors and 15 NBA Draft picks, including 11 first-round selections and nine lottery choices.

Do you feel as though the fan base has become complacent and or spoiled in the last few years?

We believe our fan base is the best in America and has very high expectations, as do we. We wouldn't be answering these questions unless we respected and valued our amazing fan base. It is our goal to have every area of our basketball program set the standard, and nothing is more important than our players.

For Duke fans who want to support the program in the most effective and helpful way, we suggest they support our players and stick behind them during the natural ups and downs of any players' development in college. Our players will continue to represent you and Duke University in the best possible manner. It is important to be aware of the microscope that each one of our young men is under.

Because of our success, there are many people who would like to take shots at our program and our players. As a staff, as a school community and as a fan base, we believe we should be incredibly protective and supportive of the young men who take the floor and compete for us. Anything less than that is detrimental and a disservice to what Duke Basketball is all about.

. What is the single greatest moment for each of you as a Blue Devil player?

Wojo: To pick out one single memory from my career at Duke as a player and as a coach is as difficult a task as I could imagine. Ultimately, my best memories as a player surround the day-to-day interaction with those who coached me and those with whom I played. If I had to pick out a game which sticks out in my mind the most, it would be my Senior Night in Cameron Indoor Stadium, when we came back from 17 down against an unbelievably talented UNC team to win the ACC regular season.

Collins: For me as a player, two memories stick out more than any others. First, having the opportunity to play in a national championship game in 1994 versus Arkansas was a dream come true for me. I remember standing at the jump-ball circle before tip-off, looking around the arena and realizing that I was getting ready to play in a game that I had dreamed of and played in my backyard as a kid thousands of times. That is a memory I will never forget. However, my most memorable experience as a player came during a time of transition. In my senior year in 1996, coming off of our disappointing 1995 season with Coach being sick, we were getting ready to play at NC State with us sitting at 0-4 in ACC play. I hit a 3 that bounced around the rim about six times before it dropped to win the game. We went on to win eight of our last 12 games in the conference and advanced back into the NCAA Tournament. To be a part of that team that pushed us back on track was special to me.

Similarly, what has been the most rewarding moment of your coaching career?

Wojo: As a coach, I have been fortunate to see some of the greatest college basketball players of all-time work, improve and compete on a daily basis. It is something I give thanks for each day. Winning a national championship is the greatest accomplishment a player and his team can be a part of. With that said, watching Shane Battier and Nate James lead their teammates to the 2001 national title was as memorable an experience as I have had a player or coach.

Collins: As a coach, I agree with Wojo that winning a national championship is something that can never be topped. However, the most rewarding moments for me in coaching are watching a player go through his journey to become a good player and a good man. The best feeling I ever have in coaching is when a player who is leaving simply says thank you for helping me grow and improve. To me, there are no wins or accomplishments that can top that.


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